Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Cul-de-sac Revisited

A couple years ago, prompted by a piece on National Public Radio, I posted on the issue of cul-de-sacs. I questioned whether urban planning experts and governments had "better" knowledge than participants in the market who prefer homes on cul-de-sacs.

Fast forward a couple of years, and I have moved to Virginia and now live on a cul-de-sac. I like it, but I must admit I wonder about the ability of emergency vehicles, etc. to respond - I know how hard it is for a school bus to get in and out of our cul-de-sac to pick up and deliver my son.

Now the state of Virginia is legislating that all future housing developments require through streets and avoid cul-de-sacs to facilitate access and egress and minimize the volume on secondary roads, improving response time and maintenance. There is some push-back, as might be expected.

And while I appreciate the civic/social concerns, I still think the market is a better indicator of people's preferences. A better solution may be how we price and tax homes that require more resources to maintain. This may be an example of a negative externality that needs to be properly accounted for. Or as one of my old teachers used to say, “internalize the externality.”

I look forward to your thoughts.

This post relates to the following Keystone Economic Principles:
1. We all make choices.
2. There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.
3. All choices have consequences.
4. Economic systems influence choices.

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